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Archives May 15, 1997 > Headlines > Top Story Things to do

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Disney Jungle Boat Sinks
By Justin Monjo
Orlando Sentinel staff writer

Orlando-Disney officials confirmed a Jungle Cruise riverboat collided with an unknown object yesterday, sinking the vessel. Details are still unclear as to the exact cause of the accident, but early indications point toward mechanical failure. Based on passenger accounts, the following is a reconstruction of the boating incident.

About five minutes into the "cruise," the fiberglass-hulled vessel became disconnected from its track and went out of control. The jungle boat skipper, apparently unaware that his piloting wheel was nothing more than a useless prop, frantically attempted to steer the vessel out of harms way. The suddenly turbulent excursion ended when the vessel collided with an unknown object thirty feet from the waterfall. Victims report the boat came to a sudden and violent halt throwing everyone aboard toward the bow of the stricken vessel. Taking on water at a terrifying pace, the vessel started listing to port and the tourists panicked.

Attempting to avert the worst navel disaster in the history of Disney World, the skipper fired his Disney-issued weapon into the air in a futile attempt at getting everyone's attention. Unfortunately, the plastic foam elephant gun proved unsuccessful at bringing the panic to a halt. Utilizing the only tool available to him, the skipper pulled an ax from the boat toolbox and threatened to hack off the foot of anyone who didn't follow his commands.

The ax proved an effective calming technique and the skipper initiated an orderly evacuation of the boat. He stunned the tourists by revealing a little known fact that the 20' long alligators they had seen only moments before were in fact fake. The tourists could simply wade through the shallow water without the fear of being eaten. The skipper completed the evacuation of the sinking boat by tossing three uncooperative tourists, who mindlessly clung to the foundering vessel, overboard.

All the passengers made it to shore, were treated by Disney medical personnel, and released with coveted free passes to the "Pocahontas on Ice" show.


"Heroic" skipper's identity a mystery
Orlando Sentinel staff reports

Orlando-Credited by some passengers as the man who saved many lives, the jungle boat skipper's identity has remained a mystery. Though some victims complained the skipper displayed rude and cocky behavior during the mishap, others praised his take-charge attitude during a time of crisis. Though Disney officials refuse to identify the park employee piloting the vessel, victims report the skipper called himself "Jungle John." Several passengers claim the skipper, whose unconventional use of boating terminology annoyed some, spoke with a definite "Carolinian" accent. It was also mentioned by several witnesses the skipper bore a striking resemblance to "Sam," a character on Fox's Party of Five television program. Shortly after all the passengers where pulled from the murky water, the boat skipper was whisked away by park supervisors and hasn't been seen since. Attempts to identify and contact the mystery skipper have been unsuccessful.


Drenched passenger terrorized by mechanical hippo
Orlando Sentinel staff reports

Orlando-Of the 22 passengers on board the vessel yesterday, none reported any serious injury. However, one German tourist, identified as Hilde Boertlin, did experience more of a thrill than she bargained for. Wading through 3' deep water with her fellow passengers, Mrs. Boertlin was attacked from below by a mechanical hippopotamus. The contraption, designed to rise out of the water when sensors detect something pass by, interpreted the floating tourist as a boat and was activated. Witnessed by dozens of horrified tourists, Mrs. Boertlin was picked up by the hippopotamus and flung toward the shore. Landing upon an African hut, the woman's fall was broken by the grass and bamboo structure and she was unharmed. Rescued by 17 park guests--all lawyers--Mrs. Boertlin refused medical treatment and proceeded with her planned activities. Attempts to reach the Boerlin family for further comment have been unsuccessful.


Quick Fact:
When asked to locate Sydney, Australia on a map, 64% of Americans placed it in Greenland and 11% didn't think it existed at all.


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